Ad Hoc Committee for a Democratic University

Originally named the Ad Hoc Committee to Oppose the Tuition Increase (born out of the tuition boycott in Dec. 1966), the committee rapidly emerged in late 1966 as the primary radical organization on campus, as other student groups suspended activities and were absorbed into the Committee. The Committee’s leadership was drawn largely from those of a civil rights background, and it evinced the protest style associated with this movement. In 1966, the Committee proposed a Tri-Parte Commission for the regulation of all student and university affairs, to be composed of one-third students, one-third faculty, and one third administrators.

By 1967, the Ad Hoc Committee disbanded when a large portion of the Committee members left to establish the Voice Party.

Black Allied Student Association (BASA)

The Black Allied Student Association was an organization for black students at NYU working to establish a sense of unity and Black consciousness at the University and the community at large.

The organization worked to develop the Afro-student center (the Martin Luther King Jr. Afro-American Student Center), pressed for the recruitment of Black students and faculty to NYU, and demanded specific curriculum changes in regards to Black studies.

Black Panthers

The Black Panther Party, originally named The Black Panther Party for Self-Defense, was founded in October, 1966, in Oakland, California by Huey P. Newton and Bobby Seale. The party was conceived with the objective of protecting Black residents against police brutality by using self-defense. The black panther became their symbol of strength and fearlessness. The Party's influence began to spread eastward through Black urban communities across the country.

Party membership reached its peak in the late 1960s during which time several conflicts between Panthers and the police broke-out. In May of 1967, the Panthers marched into the California legislature fully armed. Later that year, Huey Newton was shot, arrested and charged with the murder of a white Oakland cop. In 1969, 21 members of the Black Panther Party were indicted on charges of conspiring to blow up department stores, a police station, railroad tracks and the Bronx Botanical Gardens. The "Panther 21" became a major rallying point for student radicalism. Also that year, in a pre dawn raid, Panther leader Fred Hampton was shot dead in his sleep by Chicago police.

By the mid-1970s, divisions within the party led to its decline and eventual dissolution by the 1980s.

Cartter, Allan M.

Allan M. Cartter joined NYU as chancellor and vice president in 1966. Prior to that, he served as vice president of the American Council on Education.

Cartter served the university until 1972, during some of the most tempestuous times at NYU and in higher eduction nationwide. Like Hester, Cartter had to contend with the fiscal problems coupled with student unrest over the Vietnam War, the issues of minority rights, and the relevance of academic studies.

Committee to End the War in Vietnam (CEWV)

The NYU formation of the Committee to End the War in Vietnam surfaced in the wake of President Johnson’s decision to begin sustained bombing of North Vietnam in early 1965.

In 1967 CEWV and the Voice Party emerged as the principle student activist groups on campus. Both succeeded in attracting left liberal student members primarily interested in student power issues. Both concentrated exclusively on university complicity with the war effort and began to view the war as a product of international capitalism. Both groups took on an anti-imperialist tone.

Hester, James M.

In 1962 James M. Hester became president of NYU at the age of 37, the youngest president in the University's history. This former Rhodes scholar set forth to strengthen the University's academic program by attracting new faculty, improving the academic credentials of the student body and providing better facilities, with a new library, Bobst, heading the list. Under him, NYU faced its most severe financial and social crisis in its history resulting in severe cutbacks of the sports programs and the sale of the University Heights campus. He led NYU during the volatile protests of the 1960s in which he found himself positioned against the growing segments of the university.

The vilification of NYU president James Hester by student radicals can be explained in several ways. On a concrete level, student radicals opposed Hester’s political stand on the Vietnam war. Hester supported the war effort in Vietnam, and only gradually came to qualify his support by calling for withdrawal from Vietnam "as soon as possible." Anti-war activists also could not accept Hester’s insistence that the university was an abstract institution which represented various political viewpoints and could therefore not take a stand on the war. By allowing the CIA to recruit on campus and offering an ROTC program, students countered, NYU was in fact taking a stand on the war.

Hester also stood as a primary candidate for abuse because of his very visible role as head of NYU. By the late 1960s, student radicals had grown to conceive of the university as a microcosm of the larger society. Consequently, all of the ills and injustices of the core society—its racism, its appetite for war, its hypocrisy—were, in the eyes of radicals, represented in the university. Hester, who presided over the university, held an analogous position to that of Lyndon Johnson and Richard Nixon—he was viewed as a custodian responsible for maintaining the moral, spiritual, and social bankruptcy of the university system.

New Student Union (NSU)

The New Student Union was a coalition of civil rights and antiwar groups made up of the NYU Friends of SNCC, CORE, SDS, and CEWV formed in 1965. In the fall of 1966, NSU created the "Students University at NYU," an alternative institution which sought to challenge the cultural and political orientation of the official curriculum by offering courses in black history, the history of Vietnam, Marxist economics and various forums and symposia.

By fall 1967, the New Student Union was disbanded with the student left aligning with the Committee to End the War in Vietnam (CEWV), the Independent Socialists (IS), and the Voice Party.


The NYU Congress of Racial Equality was one of the main student activist groups at NYU from 1961-64 along with NYU Friends of SNCC. NYU CORE concerned itself with the civil rights struggle in New York City and undertook such activities as rent strikes and community action projects. In May of 1967, NYU CORE disbanded, its leadership announcing that whites should no longer lead blacks in the struggle for racial equality.

NYU Friends of SNCC

The NYU Friends of the Student Non-Violent Coordinating Committee was the NYU branch of SNCC which participated in non-violent, direct action to support the southern civil rights movement. SNCC raised funds and provided personnel in support of voter registration campaigns in the South and establishment of freedom schools. The organization combated economic and cultural deprivation of Black communities. At NYU, NYU SNCC along with NYU CORE were the main student activist groups on campus from 1961-64.

NYU Students for Democratic Reform

The NYU Students for Democratic Reform was an auxiliary group to New York City reform Democrats. In 1965 it purged its old leadership and transformed into NYU’s first SDS chapter.

O’Brien, Conor Cruise

Dr. Conor Cruise O'Brien was holder of the Albert Schweitzer Chair in the Humanities from 1965 to 1969 and chairman of the Interdisciplinary program at NYU. O'Brien was responsible for bringing many politically-engaged faculty members to NYU and supporting many NYU "Teach-ins." His program provided a forum for radical intellectual work and insight into radical theoretical developments on the campus.

Prior to coming to NYU, Dr. O'Brien served with the Irish Civil Service from 1942-1962 when he resigned. He then worked as head of the United Nations operations in the Katanga Province of the Congo.

Peace and Freedom Party (PFP)

The Peace and Freedom Party was organized in late 1967 by members of the International Socialists at Berkeley, and soon received widespread attention as the first white group to enter into a working alliance with the Black Panthers in Oakland. As an independent political party, it combined a radical platform which called for immediate withdrawal from Vietnam and support of ‘black power’ with a grassroots approach to organizing radical support.

PFP attempted to establish itself as the "electoral arm for mass movements toward social change in American;" its battle cry was "power to the people". In 1968, PFP ran as its presidential candidate Eldrige Cleaver, who served as Minister of Information for the Black Panther Party.

Though hardly successful as a national political organization, some individual PFP chapters had a tremendous influence on radical politics in 1968. At NYU, a PFP chapter was organized in early 1968. It triumphed in the student council elections of that year, gaining 15 of 16 seats on the Washington Square Council. NYU PFP members ran on a platform calling for immediate withdrawal from Vietnam, support of black liberation, democratization of university governance, and local democratic control of PFP as an organization.

Students for a Democratic Society (SDS)

The Students for a Democratic Society (SDS) was conceived in 1960 as an organization intended to establish a strong New Left movement. The New Left was a term used to describe a generation of Americans, mostly college and university students, motivated by social injustices, the war in Vietnam and the Civil Rights Movement in the South. In 1962 members of the association met in Port Huron, Michigan and drafted "The Port Huron Statement"-- a document outlining the political tenets of group. In it, SDS criticized the materialistic, discriminating American society and described how universities should be the center of the action to establish a "participatory democracy".

With regard to the war, SDS ranged itself among those anti-war groups which called for immediate withdrawal of U.S. troops from Vietnam. Rather than view the war as a mistaken decision of an essentially good government, SDS considered it to be a form of U.S. economic imperialism and a means of containing revolutionary change in Third World nations. SDS consequently aligned itself with the National Liberation From (Vietcong, or South Vietnamese Communists) as allies in the battle against U.S. imperialism.

By 1968, SDS had become the largest and most infamous student radical organization of the 1960s. It had graduated from its initial left-liberal stance to embrace, by 1968, an anti-capitalist critique and revolutionary politics. In this year, SDS was catapulted into the national spotlight when Columbia University’s SDS faction led an unprecedented antiwar demonstration in which students occupied campus buildings and virtually shut down the school. The protest ended after several days when NYC police were called in.

NYU SDS was formed in 1965 when the NYU Students for Democratic Reform, an auxiliary group to New York City reform Democrats, purged its old leadership and transformed into NYU’s first SDS chapter. SDS was influential but its NYU chapter had an independent character. The thrust of the NYU student movement came from various ad hoc committees and local coalitions rather than from a single group or national organization. The NYU student movement was also not isolated to the NYU campus, but spilled over into local and city-wide politics. NYU SDS pursued a tactical and ideological line divergent from that of national SDS.

Through out its existence at NYU, SDS was not absorbed in intensely radical politics and staged less revolutionary protests, but by 1968, taking a cue from Columbia SDS, NYU SDS advanced more elitist, hardline and ultra-serious politics. As a result, a new tendency began to flourish at NYU--Transcendental students and the Freak-in (see below).

In their national convention in the spring of 1969, SDS splintered into several factions, including the "guerrilla" Weathermen and by the 1970s, the divided SDS eventually faded away.

Transcendental Students (TS)

The Transcendental Students were a group of cultural radicals at NYU who developed a unique brand of social protest. As opposed to SDS, which held that government and society needed to be completely restructured before they could be humanized, TS members believed that humanization of social life in general could begin immediately. Heavily influenced by anarchist thought, TS strove for "insurrection through happiness."

Their protest method was that of the "Freak In." These recreational gatherings involved the convening of students on university grounds, where jugs of wine, rock music and massive amounts of marijuana were openly enjoyed. A series of "Freak-Ins" were staged through the spring semester of 1969, while university officials attempted, sometimes half-heartedly, to clamp down on TS activities. In line with the larger cultural radical protest of the period, exemplified by the hippies and Yippies!, the TS approach was that of broadcasting a lifestyle in the hope of humanizing and liberating NYU student culture. Though TS collaborated with SDS occasionally, they were often critical of SDS members, considering them "too serious" and "on an ego trip".

YIPPIE! (Youth International Party)

Yippie was conceived by Abbie Hoffman, Paul Krassner and Jerry Rubin in the aftermath of an acid trip on New Years Day, 1968. Hoffman, who was active in the East Village hippie community, saw Yippie! as a way of making protest "fun" and thereby attracting otherwise transcendental hippie elements into the anti-war movement. Yippie was not an organization per se, but rather an image of cultural radicalism which its originators hoped to project to the nation via the mass media.

The Yippies engaged in hippie-like "Be-Ins", as well as symbolic protests such as burning money at the New York Stock Exchange. The Yippies planned early on in 1968 to stage a week-long series of protests and festivals at the Democratic National Convention held in Chicago in August. They conceived a "Festival of Life" to counteract the effect of what they called the Democratic "Convention of Death".

Voice Party

The Voice Party was organized in March 1967 by Ad Hoc Committee members, independent students and former NSU members. Its leadership came out of youth organizations of Old Left parties based in NYC. At its inception, the group was ambivalent regarding working "within the system" by running for student government positions. In April 1967, the Voice party ran candidates for student government with a platform calling for the abolition of the grading system, consultation of students for hiring faculty, abolition of class ranking for purposes of transmission to the Selective Service, formation of a draft counseling center, and a halt to all military research being conducted at NYU. In the subsequent student government elections, the Voice Party swept the election.

In 1967 the Voice Party along with the CEWV were the principle student activist groups on campus but by 1968, Voice dissolved and most of its members joined the Peace and Freedom Movement.